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Garett Doyle

Age: 40

Occupation:Consultant

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Rotterdam

Sailing Date: 2010-07-17

Itinerary: Alaska Inside Passage

Our party had 8 people. My parents (mid 60s), my wife and I (late thirties), 14 year old girl (cousin), 12 year old boy (cousin), 10 year old girl (our daughter) and 7 year old girl. Parents and the two older cousins both have been on at least one cruise. None of our family have ever cruised.

Highlights: Food on board and Alaska. Loved seeing all the glaciers, awesome!
Lowlights: Minor motion sickness by a few folks in our party, expensive shore excursions, Children's program (see comments below)

Would we do a cruise again? Maybe. Did we have a good time? Absolutely.

We choose to have a fixed seating each evening at 5:45 PM. The food was absolutely fantastic. We loved the smaller portions. The service was good to excellent, better than the average restaurant but at times a bit slow. For the most part, we ate breakfast and lunch on the Lido deck at the buffet. Again, the food quality was excellent. Due to health concerns, the coffee/water/team beverage bars were not self service the first few days. This made the lines very long. Getting your food and finding a place to sit was a bit slower than I would have preferred but it was not unacceptable. The lines for each food station was a bit confusing. As a result, people would unknowingly cut in line.

I don't recall any bad food the entire time on the ship. Our waiter in the evening was good but difficult for me to understand. It was a combination of his accent and being soft spoken. Not a big deal but a little frustrating at times.

We had the cheapest rooms you could get on the boat without having to work! We requested no upgrades as we wanted our rooms next to each other. Needless to say, they were inside with no windows. We were on deck 2. My parents told us that there is no need to get a nicer room because you are never in your room. There is certainly truth to that statement. However, when your room is the size of a closet, you certainly don't want to spend any time in your room. Overall, I didn't mind the small room. I would have liked a window.

Beyond the size of the room, the actual quality was on par with a 4 star hotel (i.e. Sheraton, Hilton). Our room was always well taken care of by the attendant. Our girls loved seeing the towel animal every night. In fact, we went to the towel animal demonstration and bought the book.

Evening Entertainment - singing/dancing shows were ok. My parents loved them. The theatre is nice.

Comedian - Good. Somewhat family friendly (surprisingly).

Crew night entertainment - Some people liked it, I thought it was boring to terrible.

Musicians - There was a string quartet (played during dinner and a few other times on the ship) and top 40 band (frequently by the pool plus in some of the shows). They were surprisingly good. My wife and I are both musicians, so we can be picky.

Movies - Selection of shows was ok. The screen size was too small.

Library/Coffee Shop - We enjoyed hanging out. Looking out the window. Drinking coffee. Playing board games. Nicer than I expected.

Ping Pong - There are two ping pong tables on the Lido deck by the pool. We spent at least an hour per day playing ping pong. The adults love to sit at the tables and look out the window at the beautiful views (whales, mountains, ocean, etc). The kids enjoyed playing ping pong and meeting so other kids on the ship. Ping pong pools can be checked out for $2 at the front desk (major pain being on a different floor). We ended up buying some while in port. The paddles were well used and many of them broken.

Children's Program (HAL) - Terrible. The only truly unfriendly staff on the ship. We stopped by for a visit during the open house. The workers were primarily from the US. The acted like they didn't want to be there and were generally unfriendly. None of the kids in our party wanted to return. Our kids came back a few days later to try out the game room. Most of the video game machines were broke (wii, PS3, xbox) and nobody would help with getting them to work. MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT. We never intended on dropping our kids off at HAL, so this didn't impact our trip or plans at all. However, if this part of your plans, beware.

Pools - There are two pools on the ship. The aft pool is uncovered/outside. It has a bunch of lounge chairs permanently in the water. There is a big screen outside plus a bar. Perfect for the Caribbean but a complete waste for Alaska. Absolutely no one used this pool the entire week. It was in the 50s and low 60s F most of the trip. The forward pool had a retractable roof. Our kids used it nearly every day. It was perfect temperature. The salt water pool was great for my daughters sensitive skin. There were two hot tubs next to the pool. The seas were rough enough on a few occasions that the water was splashing on the deck. Holland did a good job of managing the retractable roof. Opening it when it was warm/sunny and closing it during rain or cool weather.

Float Plan to Glaciers (Juneau) - Beautiful trip. $200 per person. No regrets
Dog Sled Camp (Juneau) - Kids liked it but it was expensive for what you got.
Gold Panning/Salmon Bake - Best value of the week. Food was okay but not as good as the ship. The setting was beautiful. Tons of Bald Eagles. Waterfall and creek at the Salmon bake.
Carriage Ride (Victoria) - We didn't schedule this via Holland. Good value. Enjoyed it very much.
4x4/Canoe Trip - overpriced. Driving around old logging roads was not all that exciting.

None of the excursions were geared toward hardcore outdoor people. Most of them were rather touristy. Don't be afraid to explore the ports on your own.


Overall, we enjoyed our trip. Personally, I was dizzy about 1/3 of the trip. After starting to get sea sick, I used the prescription patch. It certainly helped but they blurred my vision and made me a little dizzy. I am not sure cruising is my favorite type of vacation. If you want to get a quick overview of Alaska, this is a good way to do it. If you want to explore Alaska, this will be frustrating. Even though I have been to all 50 states in the US, there are a many places I still have not visited. My international travel experience has been limited to the UK, Mediterranean and Israel. All said, there are a lot of places I want to visit that don't require a cruise ship. Would I cruise again? Yes. Is it my preferred method of travel? No. Would I go on Holland American? Maybe.

Misc. thoughts: Contrary to what friends told us, Holland America was not all old people. I was surprised at the multi generational groups we met. I liked the fact that the ship was not like a giant nightclub. I didn't run into any drunks.

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